from Guy Debord

To Constant
Thursday 11 August [1960]
Dear Constant:

Arriving in Paris, I found your letter of 2 August [1960]. I sent you the 10 copies of the journal[1] that you requested. And now I respond to your letter precisely.

As I already wrote (21 June), I hope that our relations, from the moment that they leave the terrain of the SI, situate themselves on the most amicable possible plane. I am happy that you respond now in this sense.

You tell me that, if you haven't responded positively sooner, it was because of your suspicions concerning a fragment in I.S. #4.[2] And here is a clear explanation.

This fragment (like all of I.S. #4) was printed before our discussions in Amsterdam on 30 May [1960]. It is necessary to note that this fragment was not written in the perspective of the subsequent, unexpected conflict between us.

The particular incident has the following history: when I wrote to you, on 15 December [1959], that you could use what you wanted of my ex-article[3] as "community material," "but without any mention 'extracted from. . . '" because this text, especially with deletions, "falls into the category of art criticism, and you know that I absolutely do not want to take up this genre"[4] -- it is true that I did not explicitly say "without my signature." But it is rigorously impossible to imagine another meaning for this letter if one considers it attentively. You tell me that an unsigned text has little value as a preface: this is true, but it isn't an argument. The clear solution, in a parallel case, was to actually publish the complete text (because, finally, why not?) or, if the text didn't suit you, to publish a different one (I actually believe that the deleted morsels[5] added more than they removed from my very positive appreciation of you. But you were free to judge otherwise: not to change my manner of judging.) In Brussels, I admitted the misundertanding, which means that I renounced reproaching you for having ignored my request -- since my letter wasn't perfectly clear. But if I renounced a direct reproach, and a public polemic [against you], this doesn't oblige me to also renounce the right to make known to the people who have read it that this text doesn't correspond to my thinking. That is to say, to my thinking concerning art and its critique; it isn't a question of detracting from what I think of your efforts. I emphasize here the theoretical right, but I obvioulsy do not think of exercising it. But here is the last detail: you said to me then, in the presence of Maurice [Wyckaert], that the deletions only concerned some phrases at the beginning. I believed it. Only two or three months later, I accidentally found this text again. In German -- which isn't easy for me -- I compared the two and found that the end was also missing. And that the deletions affected almost half the text. Though this contradicted your previous assurances, the responsibility formally belonged to the [Van de Loo] gallery -- which had made the new deletions. Despite being resolved by this last blow to disavow this incomplete text, I did not want to attack you. This is why I have not said that this text was not on Constant but on "Constant and U.U." [Unitary Urbanism]. To mention your name there was to put it into question. I have said enough to permit the text to be recognized, not to designate someone as being responsible for it.

Now you write me that the published text was reduced by you to only a third of the original. I can not discuss if it is a question of 1/3, 6/10 or half. But this is far from what you told me at the end of January [1960] at Maurice's place and I have realized this misunderstanding only now. (In any case, I estimate that my responsibility is sufficiently dis-engaged [from the altered text] by the note in I.S. #4, if things remain remain where they are.)

I repeat, however, that this is entirely preliminary to the current problem. It is beyond doubt that your contributions, not only to issue #4 but to all situationist works for a very long time, gives you the right not only to these 10 unfortunate copies but as many copies as you'd like of all of our publications. You know well that it's not a question of merchandising -- and these objects are hardly merchandise -- but, as I proposed on 21 June,[6] the maintenance of an exchange of information in the widest sense of the word 'information.' I find this objectively and personally desirable. But it is for you to choose and you still haven't responded. Quite often seen in the past, I've seen disagreements quickly become extreme (transform themselves from a simple refusal to be engaged collectively on a program and its tactics for realization, to a refusal of all relations), and you yourself have sometimes manifested a tendency to anger, which now ends in such a choice.

I specify that, if in our most recent discussions in the SI, I have patiently tried to moderate your reactions which seem to me to aggravate the real oppositions, I fortunately no longer have to do it now. I have nothing to judge or orient in the attitude that you have taken with respect to the SI. But only to the extent that you, like I, want this attitude to be reciprocally cordial, and in any case to be correct, it would be good to relax the current ambience of suspicion in your ideas and practice as soon as possible. Because if the suspicion remains general, polemics will fatally finish by removing it.

Thus, I am not directly occupied with the "Library of Alexandria,"[7] but I find it useful that you have written to me that there isn't "any reason to think" that you have refused to give us [our copies of] the monograph. Given that it is one of a linked series of monographs, the question of this: how many copies can you deposit? The settlement of this question would certainly contribute to dissipating the atmosphere of suspicion and malevolence, which we can still reject.

It is with the same goal in mind that I have given you this long explanation of my position concerning the [editorial] note in I.S. #4.[8]


[1] Translator: Internationale Situationniste #4. June 1960.

[2] Cf. I.S. #4, p. 13.

[3] Constant and the Path of Unitary Urbanism.

[4] Translator: here Debord is quoting from his 15 December 1959 letter to Constant.

[5] Translator: the heavily edited version of Debord's Constant and the Path of Unitary Urbanism was published by Gallery Van de Loo.

[6] Translator: Letter dated 21 June 1960.

[7] Translator: the imprint funded and directed by Asger Jorn (1960-1964).

[8] Translator: "Die Welt als Labyrinth," which concerned the recently failed efforts to put on a general manifestation of the situationist movement in Amsterdam's Stedelijk Museum.

(Published in Guy Debord, Correspondance, Volume 1, 1957-1960. Footnotes by Alice Debord, except where noted. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! October 2005.)

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